Bullying and disability at one time was a taboo topic. Bullying in general was not seen as a major concern for parents, guardians, teachers, coaches in society. No one every dreamed children would die due to the affects of being bullied. The information age we live in with computers, cell phones, tablets are great tools if used in a positive way but this cyber bullying has got to stop!
The definition of bullying- “is the use of force, threat of coercion to abuse, intimidate or aggressively to impose domination over others.” ( Webster’s Dictionary) Boys are more physical in their bullying tactics while girls are verbal. Boys will bully both girls and other boys. Girls tend to only bully other girls. When bullies have friends and circumstances don’t work well for them they turn on their friends to save themselves. This way of operating for a bully boy or girl is not new it is just being talked about now due to the gravity of consequences were both boys and girls lives are at stake especially in the 12-16 year old age bracket.
So what child in the disability community can be a target of bullying. The answer is almost any child that has an impairment. Speech and Language issues for a child can be a target for a bully who sees the child as weird or different. A child with a Developmental Coordination Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can be picked on for not fitting in to whatever is considered to be normal. Remember bullies behave the way they do because of the inadequacies within themselves. Love, care, discipline and teaching of how to treat others may not be evident in their lives.
How has bullying and my own disability affected me in my own life. Being bullied affected me from age 7-12 years old. Yes I was depressed, angry, sad and wanted revenge against the bullies that picked on me for being different due to my brain surgeries, disability and epilepsy. However I was fortunate to have a faith in God, family, school and sports to make the difference in releasing the tension most of the time. To be honest I got even with the bullies when playing sports and got even by playing hard nosed in whatever sport we were playing that helped release my anger. No one likes being picked last and neither did I when I was a kid. However when I did I wanted the other team to pay for discounting me. Was this the healthiest approach for being mistreated and the answer is no. The other option of curling up in a ball and feeling sorry for myself was not an option worth considering. My way of dealing with bullying is only one approach and I felt being sensitive about the bullying was going to swallow me up. However my anxiety reached a high point in grade 6 and my mom and dad took me out of school and reached an agreement with some opposition from the vice principal of the school that I only come for core classes from Easter till June. We moved to a new city and I got a new lease on life without being bullied.
Do I have answers to bullying? No I don’t have all the answers but I have a few ideas. Well in this day and age keeping young children off or monitoring their social media accounts to prevent bullying for one. Parents having an open dialogue about bullying whether your child is able bodied or disabled. Teaching the child to treat other children and adults the way they want to be treated with dignity and respect. An ounce of prevention is worth a pond of cure in not raising a bully or a child not being bullied by knowing their rights and responsibilities while being at school or in the community. Teachers and coaches should not bare the burden of raising the child but it happens when children do not get taught how to behave and mistreat other kids. It takes a village to raise a child and the message come out loud and clear that bullying is not cool!
The damage of physical harm or even suicide due to the psychological affects of bullying must come to an end. Bullying can not claim one more child. There have been too many stories of a child taking their lives due to bullying. Teaching acceptance, respect. kindness and dignity in our homes is a start.
By Ty Stingel
November 5, 2013